Why Was Mary Favored?
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Our Christian faith is connected with history. It is connected with real people and events. The Old Testament reading takes us back to the time of King David. Beginning with his bout with Goliath, David a lowly shepherd, was chosen by God to be the king who would defeat the enemies of the Israelites. God wanted the people to live in peace in the land he had given them.
David wanted to do more. He wanted to build a temple to replace the tent where the people were worshipping the Lord. The Lord had other plans about who would build the temple and when it would happen.
Instead, to David he gave a promise. The Lord gave David the promise he had given Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Messiah would come from David’s royal family. God choses when and through whom he accomplishes his will.
The Angel Appeared
A thousand years later an angel came to a virgin named Mary. We focus today on the wonderful story of The Annunciation – The account of the angel Gabriel sent by God to announce to Mary that she had been chosen.
God sent his angel Gabriel to the city of Nazareth with a message for Mary. ‘”Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Imagine, an angel of God going to Nazareth a little out of the way town in Galilee to find a mother for the Son of God. Nazareth was at least three days journey from the religious and cultural center of Jerusalem.
What a startling event in the life of Mary. Imagine Gabriel coming to a young virgin to proclaim that God looked upon her with favor. She was nowhere near the holy city of Jerusalem or the temple but the angle said, “The Lord is with you.”
What could she have possibly done that God favored her over so many other women. It’s no wonder she was troubled by the greeting from an angel. “What did it all mean” must have been in her thoughts.
‘Do not be afraid.’ the angel said. This event in her life was meant to be a wonderful blessing. Gabriel came to give her God’s calling to be a mother. She was not called to be a queen or a princess, but a mother, a noble and God pleasing calling.
God had chosen Mary. She was not rich or powerful, she did not live in a place nor was she engaged to a man of prominence. Mary did not find favor with God out of any merit or worthiness in her. His choice was a matter of grace, grace poured out on her, grace poured out on the whole world.
She would give birth to a son who would be named Jesus. He would be known as the Son of the Most High. He would be a king whose kingdom would have no end. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin.””
‘With God nothing is impossible,’ replied Gabriel. “Conceived by the Holy Spirit born of the virgin Mary,” that was God’s answer. We call this miracle the Incarnation where the Son of God takes on flesh and blood. True God, in this child, was about to become also true man. In this child the true love of God would be revealed.
Mary was being called to be the mother of this Holy Child. Along with Joseph, she was being called to provide a home for the Son of God. They would provide food, clothing, and shelter for the one who came to save his people.
Because this child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Mary’s child would be different from all the other children born into this world. This child was not “by nature sinful and unclean.” This child was the Holy Son of God. Such a holy child was necessary to take our place.
Like all of us, Mary’s natural inclination could have been to refuse God’s calling to serve him or ask, “What’s in it for me.” Instead, again by God’s grace, Mary had faith. She trusted that God knew what he was doing so she said, “Be it unto me according to thy word.”
All of us are inclined to refuse God’s calling, especially our calling to serve those in need. We are often afraid of what it will mean to have faith and trust in God. In the middle of suffering and hardships it is hard for us to see that the “Lord is with us.” It is not always easy to know that God is continually pouring out on us grace upon grace.
We can be “greatly troubled” by God’s word. His words can be very blunt and convicting, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” His words can be very frightening, “the wages of sin is death.” Our reason will question how I can be sure that God will look with favor on me. “How can this be, since I am a sinner?”
Jesus Said Yes
Our situation seems impossible to turn around. What can we do? Jesus was “Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” With God all things are possible. The child that Gabriel announced came to earth to serve us, to do what we are unable to do.
What can we do? Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” The infant Jesus became the suffering servant, ‘He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.’ Is. 53:5 He came to live and die in our place.
The Christmas story is full of God’s grace and favor. Why was an angel sent to an elderly couple who became John’s parents? The answer lies in God’s grace. He had promised to send one who would prepare the way of the Lord.
Why was an angel sent to a virgin named Mary in the insignificant town of Nazareth? The answer lies in God’s grace. He had promised to send a savior. What caused Mary to accept as truth the unbelievable message which the angel brought? The answer lies in God’s grace which God gave to Mary.
Why would God make good on a promise that he had given to people who so often turned their backs on him? Why would he provide salvation for generation to come of people who would often turn their backs on this most wonderful story? The answer lies in God’s grace for the lost and condemned.
A Startling Event
Why does God look with favor on us? Why has he washed us clean from our sin and made us his children in the waters of Holy Baptism? Why does he send pastors with his authority to pronounce forgiveness? Why does the Lord surround us with fellow Christians who share their faith with us? Why does he give us his own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins?
So many questions about why God looks with favor on us but only one answer. God is gracious and merciful. For the sake of his son he pours out on us grace upon grace without any merit or worthiness in us.
While we may not comprehend the miracle of the virgin birth, he miracle that Jesus dying for us on the cross, or comprehend the miracle of the resurrection and promise of eternal life, God grace has given us faith to believe. In the name of Jesus. Amen.